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Rolling Stones songs: All Down the Line
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I need a shot of salvation, baby, once in a while…
Written by: Jagger/Richard
Recorded: Rolling Stones Mobile, Nellcote, France, June-Nov. 1971; Sunset Sound Studios, Los Angeles, USA, Dec. 1971-March 1972; RCA Studios, Los Angeles, USA, March 1972
Guest musicians: Nicky Hopkins (piano), Bobby Keys (saxophone), Jim Price (trumpet/trombone), Jimmy Miller (maracas), Kathi McDonald (background vocals)
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
The Stones first recorded an acoustic version of this song in 1969. They recorded it electric in 1971, and it was the first song completed for the Exile on Main St. sessions. Engineer Andy Johns told Goldmine in 2010: “It was the first one that was finished cause we’d be working for months and months. Mick got very enamored. ‘It’s finished! It’s going to be the single!’ I thought, ‘This isn’t really a single, you know.’ I remember going out and talking to him and he was playing the piano. ‘Mick, this isn’t a single. It doesn’t compare to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” or “Street Fighting Man.” ‘Come on, man.’ He went, ‘Really? Do you think so?’ I thought, ‘My God. He’s actually listening to me.’ (laughs)…
…And then, I was having a struggle with the mix I thought was gonna be it. Ahmet Ertegun then barged in with a bunch of hookers and ruined the one mix. He stood right in front of the left speaker with two birds on each arm (laughs).I told Mick, ‘I can’t hear it here. If I could hear it on the radio that would be nice.’ It was just a fantasy. ‘Oh, we can do that.’ ‘Stew (piano player Ian Stewart), go to the nearest FM radio station with the tape and say we’d like to hear it over the radio. And we’ll get a limo and Andy can listen to it in the car.’ I went, ‘Bloody hell…Well, it’s the Stones….
..OK.’So sure enough, we’re touring down Sunset Strip and Keith is in one seat, and I’m in the back where the speakers are with Mick, and Charlie is in there, too. Just because he was bored (laughs). And Mick’s got the radio on and the DJ comes on the air, ‘We’re so lucky tonight. We’re the first people to play the new Stones’ record.’ And it came on the radio and the speakers in this car were kind of shot. I still couldn’t tell. And it finishes…
…Then Mick turns around. ‘So?’ ‘I’m still not sure, man.’ I’m still not used to these speakers’. ‘Oh, we’ll have him play it again then.’Poor Stew. ‘Have them play it again’ like they were some sort of radio service. It was surreal. Up and down Sunset Strip at 9:00 on a Saturday night. The Strip was jumpin’ and I’m in the car with those guys listening to my mixes. It sounded OK. ‘I think we’re down with that.’ So then we moved on.”
When The Stones gave this to a Los Angeles radio station in 1971 while they were still working on it so they could hear what it sounded like on the radio, it spread rumors that it would be the first single off Exile on Main St., but that honor went to “Tumblin’ Dice.”
Producer Jimmy Miller added percussion. He had to play some of the instruments on the album because The Stones were rarely together during the sessions, which took place at a French villa Keith Richards rented.
Kathi McDonald sang backup. She was a backup singer for Leon Russell and went on to record with Nicky Hopkins and Quicksilver Messenger Service.
From the Rolling Stones – All the Songs, The Story Behind Every Track book:
Following the example of “Rocks Off” on side 1 and “Happy” on side 3, “All Down the Line” opens the fourth side of the LP Exile on Main St. with that raw energy possessed by the best rock ’n’ roll. “‘All Down the Line’ came directly out of ‘Brown Sugar,’ which Mick wrote,” recalls Keith Richards. “Most of what I had to do was come up with riffs and ideas that would turn Mick on. To write songs he could handle.”
For “All Down the Line,” Jagger took his inspiration from one of the great American myths, the railroad, that symbol of travel, speed, and freedom, but also of suffering and disillusion. Hear the women sighing all down the line/Hear the children crying all down the line, goes the first verse. And the narrator of the song confides: I need a sanctified girl with a sanctified mind to help me now—presumably for his salvation. Clearly a very pious individual, as he adds right away: We’re gonna bust another bottle, and concludes with a question: Won’t you be my baby for a while?
Categories: Can You Hear the Music?